Two Waco children whose reported kidnapping led to an Amber Alert and search late Wednesday were found safe early Thursday at the home of a day care worker, leading police to conclude that the mother had forgotten the children at day care.

Two girls, ages 3 and 4, were removed from their mother’s care after a police investigation found “less than favorable conditions” at their apartment. No charges or arrests had been made in the case as of noon Thursday, but Waco Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said “questionable circumstances” surrounding the reported kidnapping could lead to charges later.

“There are certainly a lot of questionable circumstances to this entire case and we will try to get to the true facts of what happened,” Swanton said. “Due to social media, immediate local news media coverage, and an issued Amber Alert, we received information that led us to the children. They were recovered and are safe.”

Police were initially called to the mother’s home at The Villages Apartments in the 1100 block of North Sixth Street at about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, after the mother woke up and could not find her daughters, Swanton said. The mother told police she was home with her children and an acquaintance named “Chris” when she had fallen asleep at about 1 p.m., Swanton said. She said she awoke about 10 hours later and found “Chris” and her children missing, Swanton said.

Officers issued an Amber Alert for the reported abduction later that night. Officers searched the area and identified “Chris” as a man with local outstanding warrants unrelated to the family, but they determined he had no connection to the missing children, Swanton said.

Because of media coverage, a worker at a local day care spotted the alert and believed that the missing children were two children who were never picked up from the child care facility on Wednesday afternoon, Swanton said. Until that point, no one had notified police about the unrecovered children, but one worker took the children home, bathed them and decided to care for them throughout the night.

“That will be a part of the investigation as well,” Swanton said.

Police recovered the girls at the day care worker’s home and contacted Child Protective Services for additional investigation. Swanton declined to release the name of the day care Thursday.

After finding the apartment unsuitable for children, Child Protective Services workers got an emergency removal order to place the children into state custody early Thursday morning.

“Through the social media and media postings, the Amber Alert played an instrumental role in locating the children and that is exactly what they are designed to do,” Swanton said. “It was just fast-moving with lots of moving parts but everything came together to find the kids safe.”

Swanton said police are continuing to investigate the entire incident.

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Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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